Pick with Caution

It’s fall, and here in the Pacific Northwest, my friends are all heading out to the forest to hunt for matsutake, lobster, and chanterelle mushrooms.

But though wild mushrooms can be delicious, they are not without their dangers. Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans “is understood to have no kidney function at all” after eating foraged “Fool’s webcap” mushrooms in Scotland.

The Guardian’s Jill Tunstall wanted to eat her fill of delicious fungi, but she didn’t want to die (or cause environmental degradation) doing it. So she headed to Wales to learn to forage safely and ethically at the Moelyci Environmental Centre.

Aside from teaching students how to tell their Cordyceps capitata from a hole in the ground, guest lecturers at the center describe how to collect in a sustainable way. Environmental lecturer Mike Hale describes how “In some instances, large gangs will strip out everything and then take it all to an expert for sorting into what’s edible and what’s not.” Instead, he urges individual collectors to use wicker baskets that allow the spores to escape and propigate more mushrooms.

And if you happen to run into any honey mushrooms, also known as the world’s largest living organisms, make sure you have plenty of butter for sautéing.